Shri.Chandrasekar of Reach foundation has arranged for a heritage trip to Virudhachalam and Pennadam on Oct 2nd 2010. I was fortunate to join this trip. We were guided by eminent epigraphist Shri.S.Ramachandran who retired from State Archaeology department. We visited Virudhachalam and Pennadam where Chola period temples are found. In between we visited Kolanjiappar temple of Lord Muruga which belongs to late period and hence not of interest from historical angles.
Pazhamalainathar – Virudhagireeswarar Temple.
Virudhachalam lies in between Villupuram and Tiruchi. The temple is old – with earliest structures tracing to Kandarathiya Chola period. It is big, relatively well maintained and less crowded. It is a temple with 5 majestic gopuras and spanning an area of 660 x 390 feet.
As you enter on the left is Pathala Vinayaka. Here vinayaka shrine is about 18 feet below floor level – thus getting name pathala vinayakar.
There are hundreds of inscriptions on the walls of inner prakaram – but none on the outer, suggesting that outer ones may be later addition. Shri.S.Ramachandran read many of them for us. We could see Rajaraja, Rajendra and Kulothunga -I inscriptions here. Most them were about grants. Unfortunately many of them are whitewashed. Worst offence being someone writing their names on them like you can see above.
As we do pradhakshanam of the main sanctum sanctorum we can see many Lingas, Sapthamathas,several vinayakas – on one side. To me it seems all the vinayakas are lean as compared to what we see in other places. On the other side there is a separate sannidhi for ambal – called Balambika. On one side wall, you have a beautiful Gangadeeswarar. The style of this sculpture seems to be Pallava. Shri Ramachandran is of the opinion that, it should have formed part of temple prior to reconstruction by Cholas.
As we do pradhakshana on the immediate outer prakaram we can see an enormous Vanni tree. Vanni maram is the thalavirutcham here. It is said it’s more than 1000 years old. I see no reason to doubt it judging from its size.
The walls of prakaram are big. There water drain from roof is exquisitely designed as you can see.
There is a separate sannidhi for amman – Virudhambikai. What is strange is a nandhi in front of amman – normally it will be an elephant. Probably this was the original temple which became amman sannidhi during expansion.
On the whole it is great temple worth spirtually, artistically and historically. The temple is maintained well and is not very crowded.
Just outside the temple on the main road we spotted a pillar placed in commoration of the coronation of King George -V reminding us of the slavery.
Pennadam is about 20 kms from Virudhachalam. A temple of Pralayakaleswarar – a shrine of Lord Siva is in this town. Just before entering the temple you can see beautiful but discarded Ratha. Hope some day it or its replacement will run.
First strange thing we notice is the direction of Nandhi. Unlike other temples here Nandhi doesn’t look at Shiva. It is facing the town. The legend says that, there was a pralayam and Shiva ordered Nandhi to turn and drink all the water to save the town. That is the reason for ‘Pralayakaleswarar’. You see both Nandhis – at outer prakaram and inner prakaram like this.
The main temple is Thunganimadakoil – something curved like horseshoe. The main deity is Pralayakaleswarar. This temple is full of inscriptions – hundreds of them on outer walls of the main structure. They are so crowded that many of them are written even on small curved surfaces. We could see inscriptions of Rajarajan, Rajendran and successor cholas
There are many later date inscriptions also like Vijayanagar period. Adjacent to the main one, there is shrine to Lord Shiva which is on upstairs – mada koil -Soundareswarar sannidhi. This deity is stated to be visible from the main market itself (however outer walls are raised resulting in blocking of view). The amman here is Kadhali Amman.
There are three pillars with Rajendra Chola inscriptions. But what is atrocious or height of slavery if you want to call is – a pillar available in the amman sannidhi. Here on three sides of pillar Rajendra Chola meikeerthi could be seen. But on the fourth side – don’t get heart attack- you can see ‘Delhi makudabishekam of King George….’ – yes coronation of British emperor inscribed. It is an insult to Rajendra who is a great conqueror.
There are few pallava period sculptures – sapthamatha – placed in this temple. It appears that they are brought from somewhere nearby for safety. They are beautiful. Two of the mathas are missing
Highlight: The temple is well maintained and very clean. It is not crowded – thus preserving serene atmosphere.
Though the temple is old, all the structure are new with riot of colours – acrylic paints. The main deity is Lord Muruga. The temple is well maintained. It has small enclosure for Deers. I could see deers and monkeys living friendly as you can see in this photograph.